Christine Michael Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Texas A&M RB
Second Round, 62nd Pick
When it comes to pure running ability, there's no running back in the 2013 draft class better than Christine Michael. On the other hand, none of the other backs of Michael's caliber have as many questions or holes in their game as Michael does. How high will an NFL team be willing to take this high risk/high reward ballcarrier?
Michael is an electric runner. He gets north-south in a hurry with explosive cuts into the hole and generally plays at a different speed than anyone else on the field. Michael is a rugged and explosive player who will attempt to run a tackler over just as quickly as he'll put a move on them in the open field.
His initial burst and acceleration through the line are unrivaled in this class, and he loses little momentum when he changes direction. Michael's speed makes tacklers take bad angles, and he has the long speed to take the ball to the house from anywhere on the field. He also has an ideal compact build and low pad level that makes it very tough to knock him off balance.
There are questions about injuries (broken tibia in 2010 and torn ACL in 2011). There are questions about his pass blocking and receiving ability - both are limited and sometimes ineffective. There are questions about his character which caused him to be used in a smaller role during 2012, and also resulted in Michael sleeping through some meetings with teams at the Combine. He has also never had more than 166 carries in a season.
At 5'10" 220, Michael's frame is just about perfect for an NFL running back. His timed speed of a 4.54 40 at the Combine isn't elite, but his initial burst and moves in the open field still create plenty of long plays. Michael's 43" vertical, 6.69 three-cone time, and 4.02 short shuttle were all the best among running backs at the Combine. His 27 bench press reps and 10'5" broad jump were top three. He is a rare physical specimen.
As mentioned above, Michael's relationship with the A&M coaching staff cost him playing time in 2012. He made a bad impression off the field at the Combine with his missed meetings, and he also has two serious leg injuries in his past. His character issues are big enough that Lance Zierlein wrote that they could cause him to fall to the fourth round at The National Football Post.
Michael had a good mix of runs out of an I-formation and shotgun runs without a lead fullback over the course of his career. He was at his best on stretch plays that allowed him to see and choose the hole himself.
Michael's vision isn't perfect - you'll sometimes see him take runs outside to his detriment instead of staying between the tackles - but his explosion of out decisive cuts is so overwhelming that he often appears to be very advanced at seeing the hole developing. He doesn't hit holes, he attacks them. Michael doesn't look patient because his body is crackling with kinetic energy, but he can deliberately find and tear through holes on stretch plays.
Michael has little experience as a receiver, with no more than 15 receptions in any year of his career. Occasionally, he will light up a blitzer, but just as often he'll whiff or fail to engage a rushing defender. When he moves his feet and squares up, Michael can be a devastating blocker, and he can also execute cut blocks well, but inconsistency here will limit his work on passing downs early in his career.
Between The Tackles
Michael is very comfortable running between the tackles. His sharp cuts get him through the hole immediately after quick, choppy steps to survey the line and locate the hole. He can also take a ball and instantly get downhill when he has a lead blocker with great results. Michael is not afraid of contact and will run hard in tight quarters to get what's there.
Even though he has the innate quickness to do it, Michael is not a dancer or a jitterbug back in space. He puts pressure on a defense by getting to the second level without pause, and then forcing missed tackles with sharp cuts that can sometimes turn tacklers 360 degrees in an attempt to recover. Michael has a great spin move, but he is more likely to defeat a tackler with subtle moves in the open field before he encounters them. Michael does gather to change direction and appears to be impatient as an open field runner at times, but his amazing tools often make up for any shortcomings in his mental approach to running the ball.
His game isn't predicated on power, but Michael will truck a tackler in the open field. He has a mean stiff arm and generally runs with little regard to his or the tackler's health. His naturally low pad level ensures many won collisions, and Michael usually gets even lower when he senses oncoming contact.
Scheme Versatility/Future Role
Like David Wilson with the Giants last year, Michael will need to work on his pass blocking to get on the field as a rookie. He may never be an ideal back on third downs, but he will likely be the most physically talented back on his roster from day one. Michael could be a big-time playmaker in a zone blocking running scheme with his combination of burst, size, decisiveness, and toughness.
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